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Nurses union disputes Sunday newspaper ad



Published: Tue, May 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The hospital says only three of 500 nurses working on an average day were required to work overtime.

YOUNGSTOWN -- A full-page Forum Health newspaper advertisement is fueling angry comments from striking nurses at the Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association strike headquarters.

The advertisement, published in The Vindicator's Sunday editions, addressed mandatory overtime, the issue the nurses union has said is the main sticking point in contract talks with Forum.

Quoting statistics for the first quarter of 2001, the ad says 97 percent of all nursing overtime during that period was voluntary and only three of 500 nurses working on an average day were required to work overtime.

The average mandatory overtime shift was 4.7 hours, according to the ad, and the company's total nursing overtime is comparable to national benchmarks.

What nurse says: Melinda Russell said 4.7 hours of overtime adds up to a 17-hour day for nurses working a 12-hour shift.

"I have a 3-year-old child at home and my husband works afternoons," said Russell, a 19-year veteran of the neonatal intensive care unit at Tod Children's Hospital. "What do I do when they tell me I can't go home? I've known nurses who have had to bring their kids to work because they couldn't find a baby sitter."

She said the term voluntary is misleading. "Sure, we volunteer, because somebody has to do it," she explained.

Forum proposal: The advertisement also spelled out a proposal Forum offered the YGDNA two weeks ago, which it said would "phase out and virtually eliminate mandatory overtime over the term of the contract."

"Their answer to overtime is more overtime," argued Mary Beth Potts, a cardio-thoracic intensive care nurse for 17 years.

Nurses object to the way Forum uses the mandatory overtime, said Debbie Shane, who has worked 10 years as a float nurse in the medical-surgical department.

"It should be used in a crisis, in emergencies only," she said, "but now it's used as a staffing tool."




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